As an American citizen, it can sometimes be hard to keep up with international affairs. This is often due to many different factors, the greatest being that many news stories naturally center around our own country and its problems. When I saw the recent headline that Manuel Noriega had passed away, I recognized the name and was aware of some things associated with him, but still did not know exactly who he was or what his death meant. Feeling uninformed, I took to Google to see who exactly Manuel Noriega was and what his death means for Panama.
After graduating military school in 1962, Manuel Noriega started his career working in Panama’s intelligence services. As he began to climb through the ranks, he became an informant for the United States. For over a decade, Noriega provided the United States with intelligence on drug trafficking and military-weapons trade. During this time, he continued to be a major cocaine trafficker himself.
In 1983, he promoted himself to general of Panama’s armed forces, and began his dictatorship. He routinely fixed the results of Panama’s elections over the years, continuing to play both sides of the drug war, and carrying out acts of violence in Panama. He was indicted on several counts of drug trafficking by the United States in 1988 and was eventually captured in 1990. He spent the next 17 years imprisoned in the United States. After his time in the U.S., Noriega was extradited to France, where he spent three years in jail, and was subsequently imprisoned in Panama until his death.
Juan Carlos Varela, the current president of Panama, stated that Noriega’s death closes a chapter in the country’s history. This notion seems to be the consensus around the country. Without a former dictator still living in the country, albeit in prison, Panama can finally have closure on this part of its history.
New York Times
John Pawlewicz is a senior at the University of Kansas studying Economics.